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Thursday, February 23, 2012

STRIKE. People watch TV to be entertained and informed. Can Vita save the day? John Carter of Mars. California Tax incentives. All Time Fandago Advance ticket sale record set.

Biggest Loser IATSE
From the LA Times Company Town Blog. Click here for industry news.
Striking workers from "The Biggest Loser" picket the NBC reality show's set in Calabasas on Nov. 15, 2010, to secure a union contract. IATSE staged that protest and is staging one Monday for "1000 Ways to Die" workers who were fired after attempting to unionize. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times.

Mass union rally planned in Hollywood on Monday.  The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Teamsters Local 399 will stage a large rally outside the Burbank headquarters of Original Productions on Monday morning in support of crew members from the TV series "1000 Ways to Die."

"This is about healthcare, this is about safety and dignity in the workplace, and it's part of the IA's ongoing campaign to support workers in the all genres of TV,'' said Mike Miller, director of motion pictures and television for IATSE.

The union represents about 30 crew members who were fired from the show on Thursday after attempting to unionize. Launched in 2008, the Spike TV show re-creates unusual ways in which people have died.

Original Productions, which makes a number of reality TV programs, including "Ice Road Truckers," has already hired replacement workers, union officials said.

Representatives of the company were not immediately available for comment.

This marks the second time in a year and half that IATSE has staged a high-profile strike in Hollywood. In late 2010, the union waged a successful walkout against the producers of the reality TV show "The Biggest Loser."

Fans create an independent "John Carter" trailer. For independent filmmaker Michael D. Sellers and his creative partner, Mark Linthicum, the main attraction for this year's Super Bowl happened during one of the commercial breaks — the premiere of the new film trailer for Walt Disney Studios' "John Carter."

The spot scored high marks among hard-core gamers, according to research firm Bluefin Labs, which monitors social media conversations about TV. But the "John Carter" trailer failed to resonate with an Edgar Rice Burroughs fan like Sellers, who has been waiting decades for Hollywood to animate the 100-year-old character, around whom Burroughs wrote a series of 11 adventure books.
"The 30-second version was an incredible disappointment," Sellers said. "I was like, 'Come on, let's fix this thing.'"

After the game, Sellers and Linthicum re-cut the trailer in a way that chronologically took the viewer from America circa the 1860s, where John Carter is seen riding on horseback in his Confederate gray uniform, to the war-weary veteran waking up, disoriented, on Mars.

The unofficial trailer and music build toward an epic conflict on Mars, with text that acknowledges the filmmaker's pedigree (Andrew Stanton directed Pixar Animation Studios' "Wall-E" and "Finding Nemo"), and hints at Burrroughs' influence on generations of science-fiction writers, including Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Bradbury.

Sellers, who is working on a Burroughs documentary, called the re-edit a "therapy session."
Since he posted it on his fan site, The John Carter Files, the trailer has attracted significant notice.
"This fan-made trailer seems to do what the official ones have not — sell the legacy of the stories as well as show how good the story is," wrote the movie-buff site Ain't It Cool News. After Stanton retweeted a link to the fan trailer, it logged some 85,000 views on YouTube and has been embedded on more than 100 sites.

"Great fan trailer!" Stanton tweeted. "They get it!"

Disney's "John Carter" could surely benefit from such loving fan attention. The film registered low interest with prospective film-goers when research companies began monitoring interest. Early pre-release surveys have shown the movie, which cost a reported $250 million to make, could bring in less than $30 million on opening weekend.

The studio still has time to create momentum for the high-profile project, which opens March 9. One person close to the movie's marketing, who asked not to be identified because he is not authorized to speak about the project, noted that James Cameron's "Avatar" met with similarly low pre-release expectations — and went on to shatter global box-office records.

Online buzz since the Wednesday premiere has been mostly non-committal, according to a preliminary analysis of tweets, blog mentions and conversations in online forums conducted by social media agency Banyan Branch. President Blake Cahill said 88% of the comments about "John Carter" are neutral in tone, with equal percentages offering negative and positive remarks.

Sellers is urging readers of his fan site to join in a grass-roots effort to promote the film by using Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media, and encouraging them to visit message boards on the Internet Movie Database website. He's even developing a press kit to help fans of the literature to talk up the film.

"Believe me when I tell you that if Disney — and we — don't get enough warm bodies in seats on opening day, word of mouth alone won't save it," Sellers wrote on his site.
Walt Disney Studios did not comment for this story.

Brad Pitt in "Moneyball"
 Brad Pitt in a scene from the Oscar-nominated movie "Moneyball," which received a California film tax credit. Credit: Melinda Sue Gordon.

Film Credit bill up for renewal in CA. California's film tax credit program would be extended five more years under legislation introduced in Sacramento on Thursday.

With the support of a coalition of industry groups, including the Motion Picture Assn. of America, Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes (D-Sylmar) introduced a bill that would extend the state's film and television tax credit through 2018.

Launched in 2009 in an effort to curb runaway production, the program gives filmmakers a 20% to 25% film tax credit toward certain production expenses. The credit can be applied to any business tax liability filmmakers have with the state.

Last fall, state lawmakers approved a one-year extension of the program, which is set to expire in July 2013. The state allocates $100 million a year to the program. While that is a relatively small amount compared to what other states such as New York offer -- about $400 million annually -- supporters say the tax credit has kept jobs from leaving the state and is necessary to keep California competitive.

"By creating tens of thousands of jobs and pumping billions into our economy, the film and television tax credit program has truly been a statewide economic stimulus package,'' Fuentes said in a statement. "With the state's unemployment rate hovering around 12%, we need to extend this targeted incentive to help keep Californians employed."

HungerGames2Stanley Tucci and Jennifer Lawrence in "The Hunger Games." Credit: Murray Close / Lionsgate.
All time Record Set. If early ticket sales mean anything, "The Hunger Games" is going to be a blockbuster.

Lions Gate's upcoming adaptation of the best-selling book series has broken's record for sales on the first day a film's tickets become available. The previous record was for the 2010 release of "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse."

The online movie ticket retailer said Thursday, a day after the tickets went on sale, that it had already sold out "hundreds" of showtimes for the movie's opening weekend, which starts March 23. Many of the tickets sold are for midnight showtimes March 22, evidence that fans are building up a "Twilight"-style mania to see the film as early as possible.

"The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" went on to sell $300 million in tickets domestically. However, some movies, like January's "The Devil Inside," generate red-hot early ticket sales but quickly fall off after their first weekend in theaters.
Act of Valor will be the No 1 film at the box office this weekend
 A scene from "Act of Valor." Credit: Relativity Media

Act of Valor, despite a lack of quality acting, may gun down weekend competition at the box office. Heading into this weekend's box-office battle, "Act of Valor" has the competition in its cross hairs.

The action film featuring  about a dozen active-duty Navy SEALs is poised to pick off its rivals at the multiplex, claiming the No. 1 position with roughly $23 million in ticket sales, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys. The film's distributor, Relativity Media, is projecting a softer opening of no more than $17 million.

Tyler Perry's latest film, the romantic drama "Good Deeds," is likely to be the runner-up with around $17 million. The two other movies premiering this weekend, the Jennifer Aniston rom-com "Wanderlust" and the Amanda Seyfried thriller "Gone," are each expected to open with a modest sum of under $10 million.

“Act of Valor,” about a SEALs team embarking on dangerous missions to protect American interests, does not feature any big-name actors. The film grew out of non-fiction footage of SEALs shot by directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh -- who work under the banner the Bandito Bros. -- but ultimately evolved into a full-length feature film that includes that original footage.

The movie, which has so far received largely poor reviews, was acquired by Relativity Media for $13.5 million from the Bandito Bros. Ryan Kavanaugh’s studio has additionally spent tens of millions of dollars to market the film, purchasing four pricey Super Bowl Sunday advertising spots.

Perry’s “Good Deeds,” meanwhile, could have one of the smallest openings of any of the prolific filmmaker’s movies. Although the pictures in his comedic “Madea” series typically have robust premieres, his dramas have done less business: His 2008 film “The Family That Preys” opened to $17.4 million and ultimately grossed $37.1 million, compared with the $41-million start for 2009’s “Madea Goes to Jail,” which wound up with a domestic total of $90.5 million.

Perry’s new film may be hurt this weekend by the ongoing popularity of the action thriller “Safe House,” starring Denzel Washington, which is attracting a large African American audience.

Neither “Good Deeds” nor “Gone” were screened in advance for critics, indicating the studios behind each film appear to be anxious about how they will be reviewed.

"Gone," Summit Entertainment and Lakeshore Entertainment's psychological thriller about a young woman who is convinced her sister has been abducted, could be another box-office miss for star Seyfried.

After appearing in the 2008 hit "Mamma Mia!" the 25-year-old actress proved she could open a movie in the 2009 success "Dear John," opposite Channing Tatum. But her more recent efforts have failed to resonate with American audiences, as both the modern take on "Red Riding Hood" and the sci-fi drama "In Time" only grossed about $37 million each domestically.

Aniston's latest film, on the other hand, has received the best reviews of any movie the actress has appeared in since 2002's "The Good Girl." On Thursday morning, "Wanderlust" had a 75% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The movie, which also stars Paul Rudd and was produced by Judd Apatow, is about an uptight Manhattan couple who decide to move to a commune. The film was produced by Universal Pictures and Relativity for roughly $35 million.

PlayStation Vita Kazuo Hirai E3
 Kazuo Hirai, Sony's next chief executive, introduces the PlayStation Vita during a news conference at the 2011 E3 conference in Los Angeles. Credit: Jonathan Alcorn / Bloomberg

Can Vita save the day? Sony Corp.'s freshly launched PlayStation Vita handheld game console could generate more than $2.2 billion in revenue this year for the Japanese consumer electronics and media giant, according to the Boston-based market research firm Strategy Analytics.

The forecast is welcome news for Sony, which is struggling to recover from a catastrophic 2011, when an earthquake hobbled its home market in Japan and floods ravaged its factories in Thailand, and left the company with a $2 billion loss for the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2011.

The $250 device, which hit U.S. stores Wednesday after being released first in Japan Dec. 17, is a litmus test of sorts for Kazuo Hirai, Sony's newly appointed leader. Hirai had championed the device during his time overseeing the PlayStation business as an example of the perfect marriage between hardware and entertainment content.

As a palm-sized device capable of accessing the Internet, the Vita also represented Sony's broader push toward connected entertainment in a portable package — allowing consumers to summon all manner of digital content on the go, including games, music and videos.

"The real value of the PlayStation Vita is its drive for content revenue growth and its strategic position in Sony’s entertainment ecosystem," wrote Strategy Analytics researcher Jia Wu, who forecast that Sony could sell 12.4 million units of the device and generate $2.2 billion in revenue for Sony in 2012. The estimate assumes that Sony would cut the price of the console sometime this year, bringing the average retail price to $180. The device is also expected to yield an additional $800 million in higher-margin software sales this year.

But the Vita faces headwinds, Wu cautioned. Among them is a cooling of demand for game consoles in general as consumers turn to smartphones and tablets for entertainment.

"Sales of the Wi-Fi version of PlayStation Vita at $249 initially exploded, selling more than 300,000 units in the first week of release" in Japan in December, he noted. "But the new console is barely moving 20,000 units per week in its home market after all the hard-core fans made their purchases."


Photo: Actor Bruce Greenwood handles a snake in the television series "The River." Credit: Francisco Roman / ABC

A new poll has uncovered a dirty secret. People watch television to be entertained and informed.
That's right. the majority of Americans who watch television are apparently hoping to be amused or perhaps even learn something. It doesn't even matter what one's political affiliation is when it comes to this topic. Republicans and Democrats feel the same about the small screen.

This startling information comes from Poll Position, which conducted what it called a "national scientific telephone survey." Participants were asked, "What is your main reason for watching television?" Poll Position surveyed 1,113 people to obtain this information. To be sure, there is a 3% margin of error.

While there is a natural "duh" response to most of the survey's findings, there were two nuggets of note. Of those surveyed, almost the same number (34%) said they turned on the tube for news. Surprisingly, only 12% cited sports as the primary motivation of their television watching. Given the high cost of sports programming and what that does to cable bills, that figure may bear watching.

No word yet if next month Poll Position will announce that a survey has revealed that people go to restaurants to eat food and socialize.

From the LA Times Company Town Blog. Click here for industry news.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I really can't believe The Hunger Games beat Twilight on ticket sales. That makes me very happy. I am a big fan of The Hunger Games and I really believe it is a great story for EVERYONE.